Tan’s reflection

Julian Tan’s reflection

It is said that in any direction that we take in life, it is difficult to conquer the future if we do not know where we come from…

Thanks to the Education department of Kinmen County government’s planning of the “Nanyang Overseas Chinese Youth Return to Golden Root Exchange” activity, this trip has motivated me to bring my family along to see for ourselves our ancestry village hometown, explore how they lived, where they came from in China (Quanzhou, 泉州,晋江) in the 18th century, the house that my great-grandfather Tan Cheng Kiat built, and re-kindle relations with relatives whom I did not know exist.


This history of Tan Cheng Kiat has been well documented. He left Kinmen for Singapore with only the clothes he was wearing. He worked hard, became successful, contributed back to society. He took care of fellow kinmen people and inspired many others to do the same. He was not alone, and there were many other pioneers like him. It would be difficult to imagine how Singapore might be today without these people to shape the history, culture and economic contribution to Singapore.


The weather was excellent and the air feels particularly fresh as our car drove from Jincheng to Jinsha. It was as if Bishan was beckoning us with a warm welcome, after 45 years of waiting for me. The drive was short as it is a small island. We arrived not before long, and the final steps into the Chen Qingji Western House felt mysteriously long. I had flashbacks of stories I’ve heard over my childhood, and histories I’ve read over the years, including lectures from Prof Jiang. Stepping inside created a strange emotion. On one hand, it feels like ‘I am home’, on the other hand, it feels sad to see the house in it’s poor condition.


We took the rest of the afternoon to visit our relative’s home, explored the village, visited the Tan’s family temple and paid our respect to our ancestors.


The island of Kinmen is little known, but when you come to understand it, it is easy to see that the history of Kinmen played a very large historical and cultural significance between both China and Taiwan, as well as the rest of South-east Asia.


Many lives has been lost in Kinmen, yet the people of Kinmen continues to be resilient, help one another, and build back better. To me, at the end of the day, Kinmen island is a beacon. When one is feeling lost, Kinmen is a reminder that others too have come the same way and succeed eventually. For myself, having found my starting point, I can now look forward to the future with a renewed sense of motivation, and hopefully inspire my future generation to also remember their roots as they themselves look to the future.



Janice Tan’s reflection

The trip to Kinmen was no doubt an eye-opening experience for me. I learnt a lot about the island’s hardships, and it was very insightful to visit the historical sites that had once witnessed the island’s wartime past. 


The highlight of my trip was visiting the famous Chen Qingji Western House as well as being hosted by our relatives for a tour around the Bishan village. It was such a meaningful visit as the village is where my family has deep ancestral roots in. My family also got the chance to reconnect with my extended family members who call Kinmen home. They shared stories that allowed me to forge a stronger connection with my roots and gain a deeper understanding of my family’s history. 


My time in Kinmen was a perfect blend of historical exploration and familial connection. The tour was very well planned as we got to visit the places that made the island’s 5 treasures: mee sua, kaoliang, bombshell steel knife, 贡唐 and yitiaogen. We also got to enjoy the island’s very own delicacies. I will definitely visit Kinmen again! I want to thank the Kinmen government for organising such trips for us.




Jervis Tan’s reflection

The trip to Kinmen was a memorable experience for me. I learnt that finding the roots of my family is important. Going there not only helped me meet relatives whom I did not meet before, but also showed me the importance of influencing the next generation of mine so that they will know where they are from.


The highlight of my trip was visiting my great-great grandfather’s (Tan Cheng Kiat) house and being hosted by the relatives we connected with in Bishan Village. The stories they shared reminded me of how fortunate I am as Tan Cheng Kiat only went to Singapore with the clothes he was wearing, dirt poor but worked hard to be able to be who he was. I was also able to see his old house which my grandfather always showed us from his photographs.


My time in Kinmen also made me learnt what it was famous for. The five treasures are mee sua, yitiaogen, kaoliang, bombshell steel knife and the peanut candy. We also got to make new friends from other countries and bond with them such as dining on the same table while being able to share about each other’s life. We even played with fireworks at night together.

We also got to enjoy the island’s very own delicacies. I will encourage others to visit Kinmen and look forward to visiting it again!